Apps we recommend

These are just our personal favorites. For other opinions, please see Other Privacy Recommendations below.

Search Engines

The first step for many in de-googling is to simply stop using google. Below are some alternatives:

  • DuckDuckGo is a favorite of many. Their search results are based off Bing, but without the creepy tracking. They also have a browser, but there are better alternatives (see below).
  • Swisscows is based in Switzerland and has an excellent privacy policy. However they filter content to restrict violence and pornography.
  • Qwant is based in France and also has an excellent privacy policy.
  • Mojeek is unlike many other search engines in that they have their own crawler. This means you aren’t relying on results scraped from Google or Bing.

Search engines we would not recommend: startpage.com (owned by an ad company), Yandex (too many results in Russian), searx (many public instances are either not useful or untrustworthy)

Web Browser

For web browsers the choices are more limited.

  • If you are looking for a browser which requires minimal tweaking we recommend Brave. This browser is based on Chromium, which is the open-source version of Chrome. It offers ad blocking, tracking protection, and many other useful features by default. Plus you can earn BAT tokens for (voluntarily) watching ads.
  • For a greater degree of customization we recommend Firefox. We especially like the Fennec version of Firefox, which is available via F-Droid. This version improves tracking protection and some other useful features. If you use Firefox, “hardening” is a must. This involves various add-ons and configuration tweaks. There are various guides available, but we like the one at privacytools.io.
  • The Tor browser uses the Tor network to anonymize your browsing, and provides strong protections against tracking. The Tor network can be rather slow, however you can still use the browser without connecting to the network.
  • Vivaldi is also a Chromium-based browser which implements ad blocking and tracking protection, along with a high degree of customization.
  • For a minimalist user interface there is Bromite, also based on Chromium.

Email

Your choice of email provider may depend on which features you prefer, the user interface, and other personal preferences. Many of the providers below offer a basic account for free, but for features like increased storage, more messages per month, or more aliases you often have to pay (well worth it in our opinion).

For the ultimate in privacy you could purchase a domain and run your own mail server.

VPNs

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is an essential tool to prevent your ISP from spying on your internet traffic, to keep public wifi networks from monitoring your traffic when away from home, and to hide your location from websites. There are many VPNs available these days. The most important criteria is not logging your activity. Many VPNs claim they do not keep logs, but they have data caps. If they have a cap, they are keeping a log of how much data you use, and therefore logging your traffic. You should also look for a VPN which does not require an address, phone number, or ideally even a name or email address. Pay with either cryptocurrency (preferably Monero) or a debit card from privacy.com.

Although we like Proton services, in the interest of avoiding centralization if you are using ProtonMail, you should probably not use ProtonVPN (and vice versa).

Messaging

Text messages (SMS) are ludicrously insecure. Any messaging app should have end-to-end encryption (E2EE) by default. WhatsApp is owned by Facebook and should be avoided at all costs. Telegram offers encryption as an option, but it is not enable by default, and not available at all for group chats.

  • Signal is the most popular of E2EE messaging apps. However it does require a phone number to register, and will also reveal your phone number to anyone you message. However it is easy to use and even has a desktop version.
  • Briar has also grown in popularity recently

Other apps we have not tried, but offer privacy:

We no longer recommend Wickr due to their acquisition by Amazon.

Navigation

There are several good apps which provide GPS/navigation while on the go. Unlike google maps, most allow maps to be downloaded and used offline in case you are visiting a region with spotty coverage.

  • Magic Earth has crowd-sourced traffic info and public transit as well. It’s our favorite, although that’s mostly a preference.
  • HereWeGo is also popular, and has a good privacy policy
  • OSMAnd+ uses open source maps. Note that you can download the “non-free” version from F-droid for free

Not recommended: Waze (owned by google)


Other Privacy Recommendations

Here are several other sites which feature privacy-oriented apps/software and techniques:


How to get a private phone number

Even after you purchase a de-googled phone, you still have a phone service which is tied to your name. The following is a summary of the technique from Extreme Privacy by Michael Bazzell, linked above.

  • purchase a phone from our website using Monero, or using a debit card number from privacy.com. Have it shipped to an address where you can get it.
  • get a 7 day free trial SIM card from Mint Mobile. You can pay cash at a local store, or buy one from amazon and have it shipped to a locker.
  • sign up for a data plan using a prepaid credit card (which you buy in cash from a store), or a debit card from privacy.com.

You now have a phone number which is not associated with your name, address, or any other identifying info. To get a really private phone, set up VOIP so that you never have to use your actual phone number. The method is too involved to present here, but we encourage you to read Extreme Privacy for more information if you require this level of phone privacy.